These Soweto mothers and grandmothers have been fighting for housing for 20 years

Way back in 1994, the ruling party acknowledged that providing housing to its citizens would be one of the biggest challenges it faces post-apartheid. While it has made some progress on its constitutional imperative to “take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of” everyone’s right to adequate housing, MANDLA NYAQELA spoke to three Dobsonville women who are still waiting to see the fruits of these undertakings.

Kgomotso TsotetsiKgomotso Tsotetsi, 58, Chairperson of Victory Tree, Dobsonville
I have applied for a house since 1996 and on my regular visits to the department of housing I have been told that my house has already been allocated, however they can’t establish yet to whom has my house been allocated. They kept telling me to come back every after six months pending investigation. The six months kept going without anything positive happening until they started to change to four months. Every fourth month I kept going to and from the department of housing and to this day, nothing. I am currently living with my five kids and my granddaughter and I still do not have a proper home for my kids. We then started organising ourselves into an organisation that is meant to advocate on behalf of those who have been experiencing the same problems that concern the application of houses. Our ward councillor who is also the chairperson in the department of housing in the greater Johannesburg region has been very rude with us since we started organising ourselves, she told us to go and apply for loans and stop bothering the government.

It is with very painful grief and disappointment to be treated so bad by someone we have voted for in our area with the faith and hope that she was going to hold at heart our needs. We have organised marches and protests and also gone as far as the MMC’s [member of the mayoral committee’s] office in Johannesburg and no one is taking us seriously. At this point, we feel very demoralised and disgruntled. We are appealing to the government of this country to attend to our housing issue, especially for the senior citizens who are living in shacks as tenants and they have to pay rent from the little they are getting from the old age grant every month. Many of these elders are sick and they need to be staying in proper houses. We also have parents who are living with disabled kids under very unfavourable living conditions.

Margret DlaminiMargret Dlamini, 87, pensioner, Dobsonville
I moved to Johannesburg after the passing on of my husband in KZN. I am originally from Lesotho and all my relatives there have passed on. I have applied for a house since 1996 and to this day I have not gotten anything. I once had my shelter burnt down and the Victory Tree assisted me to build a shelter. I am currently living in shack as a tenant with my granddaughter of ten years. The department of housing keeps promising us that they will attend to our housing issue, especially for the elders, but nothing ever happens, only empty promises and lies.
I am not feeling well; I have been diagnosed with depression and high blood pressure. The doctors say that I am thinking and stressing too much. I can’t help but keep thinking a lot given my living conditions. My blood pressure is not stable and I keep getting admitted in and out of hospital. My daughter is unemployed and stays two blocks away from here. She also stays in a shack as a tenant with her boyfriend. I can’t share such a small shelter with my daughter’s boyfriend. So then I prefer to stay with my granddaughter. I pay my rent from the pension money.

Ottilia MokoenaOttilia Mokwena, 45, unemployed, Bramfischerville
I’m struggling to find a decent place to live with my five kids. One of my kids is a little girl of two years who was born with cerebral palsy. My daughter is permanently disabled and she can’t even sit properly on her own. I am originally from the KZN province; I have been living in Johannesburg for more than twenty years now. I came to this province in search of a better life and a job. I applied for a house in 1998. I am an unemployed struggling mother of five kids who is always trying to make ends meet for my kids. I am appealing to the government to help me have a decent home for my kids. I have been to a number of offices and government departments who promised that my housing issue was an urgent one, because of my daughter who is living with a disability. The department of housing kept on telling me that I was on the waiting list and to come back after four months. To this day I have not been allocated a house.

Featured image by Gulshan Khan